CANDLEMAS. The Presentation of Christ in the Temple. Just what most people were NOT expecting. Just what the old man Simeon had NOT been expecting, until it dawned on him, with a tender warmth, WHO he was holding.
Anna, daughter of Phanuel, on the other hand, would probably not have been surprised. Dare I wonder aloud whether hers might have been a slightly more intuitive faith? I should not presume, of course, being a man, but I do dare to wonder.
At any rate, both Anna and Simeon recognised, according to holy writ, that what the world waiting to be “saved” really needed was really just a baby. Really! But not what anyone had expected. Everyone had expected – everyone wanted – someone with a much clearer place in line management structure than a baby could have. (It’s always handy to have Some One to Whom one can abrogate one’s own responsibilities). Still, the Saviour was a baby. Just an ordinary baby. Nothing to be done about it. Except believe it, of course. And that quickly became the sticking point for not a few, and – according to some of the papers again today – is still a live issue for me and you.
Is the Saviour of the World a perfect human? Is he perfectly powerful? Perfectly knowing? Predestined and automatically infallible? Above and beyond human feelings, needs, emotions? Sexless? A chaperone? Without need of human love, sustenance, care or prayer? Only kidding, only pretending to be grief-stricken when his friend died? Keeping his distance, only feigning love for Mary when she anointed his beloved feet with her hair?
Or is the Saviour of the world an ordinary baby at heart, and not just in part, like me and you? Could it be (and I think St Teresa of Avila used to wonder along these lines) – that we’re to take up something of the role of the saviour too? Ordinarily.
And what would being “saved” look like? Would it be different for a child, or a woman, or a man, or a gay person, or a straight one? If saved is something that’ll only happen for some of us, (and “some”, some say, apparently couldn’t include same sex partners, no matter how much they loved God, or their neighbours, or one another) – then who can?
Is it true that All are welcome, all are welcome, all are welcome in this place ? What answer might we find in a saviour’s (baby) face?
I find myself, albeit a much less faithful and much less prayerful priest than either Simeon or Anna, longing for a day when the Temple of our time welcomes the children of God into tender embrace – without examination, without asking how old they are, or how powerful, or whether they’re male or female, or straight or gay; for then shall she and we – in company with an old man and an old woman of long, long ago – be able to say:
Lord now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation.
– “ordinary” infants having turned out to be ExtraOrdinary saviours … each of us showing each other the way home to ourselves. Showing us how to “get a life” …